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Beavers decides not to testify at his tax-fraud trial, defense rests

Charged with tax fraud Cook County Commissioner William Beavers (right) is accompanied by attorney Sam Adam (left) as they leave

Charged with tax fraud, Cook County Commissioner William Beavers (at right) is accompanied by attorney Sam Adam (at left) as they leave the Dirksen Federal Building on Wednesday, March 20, 2013. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

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Updated: April 22, 2013 12:08PM

Cook County Commissioner William Beavers vowed in the run-up to his tax fraud trial that he’d take the stand in his own defense.

But when the hour came Wednesday for the self-proclaimed “hog with the big nuts” to follow through on those bold words, he backed down.

“That’s . . . my decision not to testify,” Beavers told Judge James Zagel after his lawyers rested their defense without calling him.

Even by his attorneys’ account, it was a bad day for the 78-year-old, who saw his star witness branded “untrustworthy” by the judge outside the jury’s earshot.

Zagel’s withering critique of accountant Barry Gershinzon placed a major roadblock in the path of Beavers’ defense. Beavers relied heavily upon Gershinzon’s opinion that Beavers owed no taxes on a $68,000 boost he gave his pension from political campaign funds; that checks Beavers cashed from his campaign fund for gambling were tax-exempt loans; and that it was the duty of the county, not Beavers, to report $1,200 monthly expense checks he took as income.

But minutes after Gershinzon took the stand, Zagel ordered the jury out of the courtroom and said that he was “deeply concerned about [the accountant’s] reliability as a witness.”

Zagel said that Gershinzon, when answering questions in court, was incapable of setting aside what Beavers told him. Any such testimony had to come from Beavers directly or it would be hearsay, the judge previously ruled.

Beavers’ decision not to testify means jurors also won’t hear his oft-repeated claim that he’s being unfairly targeted for refusing to wear a wire against fellow Commissioner John Daley.

Defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky told the judge his decision to cut short Gershinzon’s testimony had essentially denied Beavers his right to a defense. He later argued that the judge’s ruling weighed heavily in Beavers’ decision not to testify — though Beavers’ attorneys have been careful since before the trial began to preserve his right not to take the stand.

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